The Handmaid’s Tale

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Luke Character Analysis

Offred’s pre-Gilead husband and father of her daughter. He was previously married and had a long affair with Offred before divorcing his first wife. Though Offred passes a lot of time remembering him, he seems to have been frequently at odds with her emotions. He doesn’t seem greatly distressed when Offred loses her job and must cede all her money to him. Perhaps he lacks sympathy, or perhaps he’s sexist. After their failed escape, Offred imagines many fates for him, but never pictures him joining with Gilead, although subtext suggests that he might have.

Luke Quotes in The Handmaid’s Tale

The The Handmaid’s Tale quotes below are all either spoken by Luke or refer to Luke. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender Roles Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin Company edition of The Handmaid’s Tale published in 1986.
Chapter 28 Quotes

He doesn’t mind this, I thought. He doesn’t mind it at all. Maybe he even likes it. We are not each other’s, anymore. Instead, I am his.

Related Characters: Offred (speaker), Luke
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Offred has finally explained how the United States turned into the Republic of Gilead, recalling the time when, like all other women, she was fired from her job and had her bank account drained. She explains that she considered protesting, but that Luke encouraged her not to for her own safety. Instead, she became a housewife, and in this passage she remembers suspecting that Luke might have liked this shift in power. This is a surprising and important moment in the narrative, when Offred's relationship with Luke is shown to be more complicated than it first appears. There is no doubt that Offred loves Luke––the memory of him and hope that she might one day see him again sustains her, allowing her to survive her torturous life as a Handmaid. 

On the other hand, even Offred and Luke's devotion to one another cannot remain untainted by sexism and by the wider political situation in which they find themselves. Although Offred loves Luke, she can't help but suspect that he doesn't mind or even enjoys the power that the new state of affairs gives him over her. However, she never asks him about it, implying that sexism creates a communicative gulf between men and women, even those who love and trust each other. It seems that only in a truly equal society would men and women be able to love and communicate with total honesty. 

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Luke Character Timeline in The Handmaid’s Tale

The timeline below shows where the character Luke appears in The Handmaid’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...Offred wishes she could touch the bread, which reminds her of a body. Offred remembers Luke teaching her the word “fraternize.” (full context)
Chapter 5
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...occupied by the professors of the now closed Harvard University. Offred remembers walking here with Luke, dreaming about having children and buying a big house. (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...paper. Plastic bags are rare now but she remembers when they were abundant. She remembers Luke telling her to be careful about storing them, for their daughter’s protection. (full context)
Chapter 6
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...out to the government. Offred feels nothing for the men, but she’s glad they aren’t Luke. (full context)
Chapter 8
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...Offred remembers how Mayday used to be used in war for pilots to signal distress. Luke once told her the word’s origins, from French, meaning “help me.” The women see a... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...and cried dramatically. During that time, there were two attempts on her life, and though Luke found her emotional persona funny, Offred was scared. Offred imagines that Serena Joy must be... (full context)
Chapter 9
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...memory: she remembers looking hastily through hotel rooms, when she used to meet up with Luke when he was still married to his first wife. She remembers her nervousness and confusion... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...every tiny detail, including mattress stains that suggested old lovers, and felt faint, thinking of Luke. On the third day after her arrival, she looked at the cupboard, where there were... (full context)
Chapter 11
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...the sheet, offering to help Offred. At first she thinks he might help her find Luke. Then he lifts the sheet, though his face is partly obscured by a medical mask,... (full context)
Chapter 12.
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...a baby. She remembers when a stranger tried to steal her eleven-month-old when she and Luke were at the supermarket. Luke was buying steak, which he thought men were proven to... (full context)
Chapter 13
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...waves, and her failure to become pregnant. She imagines the first apartment she shared with Luke, all empty, with no suitable clothes. She remembers running through the woods with her daughter,... (full context)
Chapter 14
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...still had her old name. She imagines getting into a car with her daughter and Luke, pretending to be going to a picnic, but secretly planning to escape to Canada, with... (full context)
Chapter 17
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...eye in her ceiling staring at her. She looks at the moon and profoundly misses Luke, and decides to steal something. (full context)
Fertility Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
...the rules. They touch each other. Offred longs to do more, thinking of Nick as Luke in another body, but she’s afraid. Nick says he was coming to tell Offred to... (full context)
Chapter 18
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...in bed, disturbed and aroused by her encounter with Nick. She remembers spending time with Luke when she was pregnant. She feels too dead to masturbate. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred believes in several different fates for Luke. First she imagines Luke as a corpse lying in the forest, and hopes he had... (full context)
Chapter 20
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers how her lively mother would come over to dinner with her and Luke and criticize their lives. Offred’s mother criticized Offred’s absentee father, who she found perfectly nice... (full context)
Chapter 21
Fertility Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...to be healthy and normal, and the Handmaids smile as one. Offred remembers her and Luke’s joy when she gave birth to her daughter. (full context)
Chapter 27
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...potential. When there are bodies Offred checks to make sure none of them could be Luke. Offred thinks about the university campus, now belonging to the Eyes. She imagines the murals... (full context)
Chapter 28
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...probably dislike Offred’s deal with the Commander, since she thought Offred was wrong to take Luke from another woman. On the other hand, Moira liked women and didn’t mind stealing them. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Later, Offred moved to a better apartment for two years until Luke got his divorce. She worked digitizing a library, sometimes saving the books that were destined... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...vans.” Generally people accepted these measures, feeling safe. But one September day, when Offred and Luke had been married for years and their daughter was three or four, Offred found that... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred picked up her daughter, and Luke came home. He tried to comfort Offred by saying that the measures were temporary and... (full context)
Religion and Theocracy Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...the protesters. There were also some bombings, but maybe the army set them off too. Luke encouraged Offred not to go protest, and she didn’t, and became a stay-at-home housewife. Offred... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers back to the day she lost her job, when Luke wanted to have sex and she didn’t. Offred felt that the balance of power had... (full context)
Chapter 29
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...a fire in the fireplace. She finds the Commander father-like, and maybe even friendlier than Luke. Still, she wonders the goal of his kindness. He allows her to read magazines and... (full context)
Chapter 31
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...and stiff, like an old woman. She wishes she could have a petty argument with Luke about some household chore, and passes time fantasizing about that. Today the chandelier’s old spot... (full context)
Chapter 35
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...failed attempt to cross the Canadian border. They gave their fake passports, which covered up Luke’s past divorce, to a border guard, and Luke got out of the car to stretch... (full context)
Chapter 39
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred spoke to the superintendent of her mother’s apartment, and then Luke drove her over to check the place. They opened up the apartment and found evidence... (full context)
Chapter 40
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...sex, she imagined Serena Joy judging her for being easy. Afterward, she felt she’d betrayed Luke by responding so enthusiastically. (full context)
Chapter 41
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...it like it’s the last time. Offred trusts Nick and tells him everything (except about Luke), though she knows it might be dangerous. Offred doesn’t want to know if he got... (full context)
Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale
Fertility Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...specially created as a weapon). He relates the difficulty of finding anything more about Offred, Luke, Nick, Moira or Janine, as those may have been fake names. He suspects that Offred... (full context)
Chapter 30
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...her in the window, a romantic moment they can’t consummate. Offred knows that Nick and Luke can’t be substituted for one another, and remembers Moira’s claim that people can’t control their... (full context)
Rebellion Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Offred remembers the night before her escape attempt with Luke and their daughter. They couldn’t pack much, which would be suspicious. Luke realized that they... (full context)